COP26: The burden of responsibility -The Nation

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Climate change is the greatest risk facing us all. The Conference of Parties (COP26) concluded in Glasgow, Scotland where world leaders met to decide on the collective struggle against climate change. It is the first conference which openly called out the coal/fossil industry for damaging the environment. The meeting had different receptions across countries.

The teen climate activist, Greta Thunberg called it a ‘just-talks, no-action’ conference. People held rallies to highlight different policy loopholes within the COP system. In 2009, the developed world had promised to raise $100 billion each year by 2020 to help developing countries cope with climate change consequences, but so far no progress has been made.

When we talk about actions, monetary actions are on the forefront in the fight against climate change. Now, this milestone for $100 billion has been pushed to 2023.

Rationally, climate change should be the greatest unifying force among different nations as it has consequences for everyone. The burden of responsibility is not equally divided, however. Developed nations should bear the responsibility, both financially and morally.


The United States was leading the battle against climate change until Donald Trump pulled them out of the Paris Agreement, which sent shockwaves across the globe. This led to more countries slacking on their emission targets as they pointed fingers at the US.

The US rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement as soon as Joe Biden took the office of the President, however, the damage had already been done.

China and the US are the two biggest polluters followed by India. China committed to phase down her coal production, not phase out. China (54 percent), India (12 percent) and the US (6 percent) are the world’s largest coal consumers.

The US has committed to decarbonise the energy sector by 2050 and similar commitments were expected from China and India. India set 2070 as the deadline to net zero emissions, decarbonise the economy by 45 percent by 2030 and make renewables 50 percent of the energy portfolio by 2030.

China has not put forward new commitments and revealed that the coal consumption would peak before 2030. Alok Sharma, President COP26, called out China and India on their weak commitments.

India and China are both developing economies and because of the opportunity cost of fossil driven growth they cannot shift to renewables and phase out fossil fuel especially coal right away. In his virtual message, Chinese President Xi Jinping asked other countries to step up their contributions and called on global solidarity and cooperation to fight the challenges of climate change.

Platforms such as COP are wonderful to build confidence among countries and to synthesise a unified strategy towards the climate crisis. The agreed strategies should not only propel growth in developing countries but also keep the delicate balance of the climate crisis in check.

For now, developing countries are at the mercy of the developed world for funds and technological support. It is high time to make the $100 billion available with technology transfer options so that developing countries see a livable future. Otherwise, these conferences will mimic college Model United Nations with punchlines, beautiful pictures, coffee discussions, smiles and hugs with no practical action.